While lawyers for the winner of a $560 million Powerball jackpot headed into a Nashua, N.H., courtroom Tuesday to fight for her privacy, at least one New Hampshire legislator said he wants to change the state law to ensure the anonymity of all winners.
Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, a Democrat from Manchester, said he’s not sure changing the law now would have any impact on this Powerball case.
“But there are so many things going on in this world, I think that any time we can protect someone’s privacy we should probably do it,” Cavanaugh said.
The Powerball winner has not cashed in her ticket while the legal battle to maintain her anonymity rages. Lawyer Steven Gordon claims his client is losing about $14,000 per day in interest, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
Judge Charles Temple took the case under advisement following a short hearing.
Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina allow winners to remain anonymous. Georgia lawmakers are considering a bill to join them. New Hampshire is among a handful of other states where anonymity can be protected with a bit of legal wrangling.
State law requires release of a winner’s name and hometown. The state Attorney General’s Office says the real name of the woman, so far identified only as Jane Doe, must be revealed because she signed her name on the back of the ticket.
Release of the names assures the public that winners aren’t associated with the lottery, the office says.
Her lawyers, however, want a do-over. They said in court documents she made a “huge mistake” when she signed her real name on the back of the ticket before contacting them. She could have remained anonymous had she established a trust and then had a trustee sign the ticket, the lawyers say.
Cavanaugh suggested tickets include a box the buyer can check to indicate they don’t want their name revealed. He said he hopes to explore the legal ramifications — and the legislative interest — in coming days.
Jane Doe won the Powerball drawing Jan. 6 after buying the ticket at Reeds Ferry Market, a modest convenience store in Merrimack, N.H. Her lawsuit, filed last month, claims she now joins a small demographic of big jackpot winners that “has historically been victimized by the unscrupulous.”
“The disclosure of Ms. Doe’s identifying information would constitute an invasion of privacy because the limited public interest in disclosure is far outweighed by Ms. Doe’s interest in remaining anonymous,” the lawyers claim.
The lawsuit describes the woman as an “engaged community member” who wants to be allowed to return to Reeds Ferry Market, attend public events and otherwise function “without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.”
The complaint adds she plans on remaining in New Hampshire and giving back “to the state and community that has given so much to her.” Cavanaugh said he understands the woman’s concerns — he bought a lottery ticket himself over the weekend. If lawmakers can’t help her, they might at least help out future winners.
His lottery purchase Saturday did not place him in that group, however.
“No winner,” he said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t have to check any box.”
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